“Joey Gladstone” is practically a household name, everyone knows the fun-loving Full House character. But Dave Coulier, the actor’s actual name, may not ring a bell. Even fewer people may recall that Dave is a recovering alcoholic. Earlier this year, he took to Instagram to publicly announce his addiction, and that he’s been sober for more than two years.
In this episode, Coulier describes the moment he realized alcohol was a problem, how he continues to stay sober, the type of support he received, and how he is doing now.
Dave Coulier is perhaps best known as “Joey” from the hit ABC television series, Full House, which aired for eight seasons (1987-1995, with 192 episodes produced) and is currently starring in Live+Local on Pure Flix Streaming. The first two episodes will be available exclusively on Pure Flix on July 7th, 2022 and a new episode will air every Thursday.
Highly regarded for his voice-over talent, Dave’s additional credits include many Saturday morning cartoon favorites. He began by doing voices on HannaBarbera’s Scooby Doo and the re-syndicated version of The Jetson’s. He then went on to lend his versatile voice to Jim Henson’s multiple Emmy Award-winning animated series, The Muppet Babies , where he portrayed Animal and Dr.Bunsen Honeydew for the run of the series, and then became the voice of three additional characters; Waldorf and Statler (the two old guys in the balcony on the original Muppet Show) and Bean Bunny. He voiced Peter Venkman for The Real Ghostbusters cartoon, and the Cartoon Networks’ Robot Chicken.
Dave currently resides in Los Angeles. In his free time, he enjoys flying airplanes, playing ice hockey, and golf.
Gabe Howard is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar disorder. He is the author of the popular book, “Mental Illness is an Asshole and other Observations,” available from Amazon; signed copies are also available directly from the author.
Gabe makes his home in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio. He lives with his supportive wife, Kendall, and a Miniature Schnauzer dog that he never wanted, but now can’t imagine life without.
To book Gabe for your next event or learn more about him, please visit gabehoward.com.
Producer’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.
Announcer: You’re listening to Inside Mental Health: A Psych Central Podcast where experts share experiences and the latest thinking on mental health and psychology. Here’s your host, Gabe Howard.
Gabe Howard: Hey, everyone, I’m your host Gabe Howard and calling into the show today we have Dave Coulier. Dave is an actor, stand-up comedian, impressionist and television host. He is best known for playing Joey Gladstone on the ABC sitcom Full House. He is currently starring in Live+Local, available now on Pure Flix Streaming. Dave, welcome to the show.
Dave Coulier: Thank you, Gabe. It’s nice to be here talking with you.
Gabe Howard: Well, it is nice to have you here. I want to jump right into the topic because back in March on social media, you shared a bloodied picture of yourself on Instagram. I’m sure you remember the picture and you had a caption and your caption was, I was a drunk. Yes. An alcoholic. And you go on to share that you’ve been sober since January of 2020, over two years. So my question is, why a picture of yourself beat up to promote something as literally triumphant and as awesome as over two years of sobriety?
Dave Coulier: Well, I think it’s not only a stark reminder to myself about being honest with my life and people I love and care about. You know, I talked to my wife, Melissa, about it, who is my biggest supporter, and I said, I’m going to post this. And she said, Well, just get ready. And I said, For what? And she said, There’s going to be a lot of people talking about this. And I said, no. I said, probably just a handful of people will get it and say, hey, congratulations or I’m going through my own thing. Well, the outpouring was exactly what she said. She said, get ready. And I wasn’t quite ready for the response, which was overflowing with support, familiarity, similar stories. And my whole objective, Gabe, for doing that was if I can post my story and be vulnerable, maybe it can help just one person. And that was really as simple a thought as it was for the impetus of doing it.
Gabe Howard: We always love to talk about active addiction, active mental illness, active crisis, and then we love to talk about triumph. I did it. And your picture and your words, they kind of straddled both lines. The picture was very, very much active addiction, but the words were very much triumph. So I can see where people in the mental health community and just people in general kind of responded to it.
Dave Coulier: See, I never equated alcohol with having a problem. It’s just because I was a child of the sixties. I always equated alcohol with, Wow, the parents are having such a great time. And I grew up here in Detroit and after hockey games, when I was a little kid, we would go out for pizza with all the other parents and I remember the parents drinking beer and they would pour us a little beer in our Dixie cup or our solo cup and and we thought, Wow, we’re just as cool as the parents. That was a much different time in American society than it is now. The effects of alcohol weren’t really discussed. The awareness of mental illness was not there. Mental health wasn’t anywhere in the vernacular, so it was a much different time. And so I never equated alcohol with being a really bad thing. I just thought, Well, it’s okay to be the life of the party.
Gabe Howard: Many comedians. And I mean, it’s almost a trope and in fact, it’s a stereotype that comedians, you know, alcohol makes us funny and it’s just it’s everywhere. I think I read a book on how to become a stand-up comedian, and the very first chapter was learn to drink. It’s literally everywhere. Now, I’m not a famous stand-up comedian. I’ve never worked as a stand-up comedian. I bombed miserably. Dave, it was, it was horrible. I, I read the books. I tried it, I crashed. But I’m sitting here listening to your story and with alcohol so infused into stan-up comedy, were you worried about this? Did you feel that it would take away something that made you special or a core part of who you are?
Dave Coulier: Well, it was internal turmoil and it was a lot of questions and it was a lot of come-to-reckoning moments where I thought, okay, because after that picture, Gabe, it took me another year to get sober. And that’s when all of the questions, the introspection, the raw emotion of, wow, as you said, I’m a professional comedian and all of the things that I am, is that all going to stop? It was a real challenge for me from a health perspective, from a relationship respective, not just with my wife, but with everybody and with my job and my occupation and audiences. So for me, there were a lot of, there were a lot of mental plates spinning in the air. And I had to address each of those to finally be able to peel away all those layers to get to myself. And when I got to myself, I realized, wow, you’ve been missing a lot.
Gabe Howard: Let’s talk about that year that it took you to get sober. One of the big, big quotes in recovery is relapse is recovery. It’s normal to try, fail and then just get back on the horse and try again. Did you have a lot of starts and stops? What led you there? What was, what was your process that worked for you?
Dave Coulier: My process was let’s keep moving forward and not beat myself up because I realized I had been beating myself up with alcohol my entire life and whether I wanted to or not, being sober was really the only direction for me because I was going to kill myself. Something was going to happen. It was going to be the next fall. It was going to be doing something stupid. It was going to be okay, I’m hung over and I’m behind the wheel of a car or I didn’t wait long enough between bottle and throttle because I’m an airplane pilot. You know, so there were a lot of, a lot of things, man. I had to check off a lot of boxes. You know, there were some really tough moments where I was sobbing and it was almost as if alcohol didn’t want to let me go. You know? And one of my things that I’ve said often is I loved booze, but it did not love me back. It was like, you know, I had fallen in love with this beautiful girl who really didn’t care about me. And all I could see was the beautiful girl. I couldn’t see that she had a horrible personality, that she was destructive and that she was going to ruin my life. There were so many different things, but honesty was really the word that I kept coming back to, which was just be honest with yourself and do not beat yourself up.
Gabe Howard: Did you have good support from those around you? You’ve mentioned your wife a couple of times. So I imagine that she was in your corner. Was she? Were other friends? Were people helping you with this or did you internalize it and try to do it all by yourself?
Dave Coulier: No. I had no help, cause all of my friends wanted to keep me drinking, you know?
Gabe Howard: That’s not an uncommon story, though.
Dave Coulier: You know, they wanted to keep me drinking. They wanted the party to continue. They wanted Funny Dave, who, you know, would launch into characters and do silly, sophomoric, immature things, which I still do. But I didn’t realize I had so many enablers. My wife was really the one that was kind of she was the port in the storm. She just kept reminding me, Look, you want to do this, so I’m going to remind you that you really want to do this. I went from not having a drink every day to, Oh, I’ll start drinking non-alcohol beer, wine. It was awful. It was terrible. So I tried to make all of these steps and then the operating system just changed to where I picked a date, which was January 1st of 2020. And I said, That’s it. That’s a really easy date to remember. It’s a new year. I’m going to do this.
Gabe Howard: When making big changes like that, one of the things that people do is they avoid situations that remind them of their addiction or of their mental illness or of their toxicity or their crisis, depending on, you know, what habit you’re trying to break. And I know that many people in recovery from alcoholism, they’re like, look, I just I can’t go to the bar anymore. But let’s talk practically for a moment. You’re a stand-up comedian. You perform in comedy clubs, which, you know, the stereotype kinds of holds there. They’re smoky places filled with a lot of liquor. Is that difficult for you to walk into a room like that knowing the per capita alcohol content per person?
Dave Coulier: Well, yeah. I had worked in smoky nightclubs since I was 18 years old is when I started doing stand-ups. I couldn’t take that out of the equation. And I thought, you know, when you see those people walking across coals and it’s mind over matter, I thought, you know what? I got to just keep walking across the coals. It’s going to be just as hot when I turn back as if I move forward. So that was kind of the picture in my head was just one foot in front of the other. And you’re going to be thrust into so many situations that are going to remind you of your life, of your former behavior. You have to just keep going and you can’t see these detours along the way. You just have to really keep walking down a really healthy road.
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Gabe Howard: And we’re back with stand-up comedian Dave Coulier discussing his battle with alcoholism. Now, Dave, you may not know this, but you’re a famous comedian.
Dave Coulier: [Laughter] Thank you.
Gabe Howard: I want to make sure that we establish that. And I love your social media and I’m a fan of yours because your comedy speaks to me. It lines up with my own sense of humor. I love you joking about alcoholism. The joke earlier, I loved booze, but it didn’t love me back. Right? That’s a, that’s a great one. But I know that from working in mental health advocacy and living with bipolar disorder and my own jokes about living with bipolar disorder and my own jokes about suicidality, not everybody likes the introduction of humor with addiction and mental illness and crisis. Have you had a hard time striking the balance between joking about your own alcoholism and getting pushback from activists that are like, Look, alcoholism is serious and this isn’t something to joke about? And how have you balanced that?
Dave Coulier: Well, Gabe, it is serious. And a year ago I lost my brother Dan to mental illness and he took his own life. And I was the one who discovered him down in my dad’s basement. I can never unsee that. I know firsthand how much mental health and mental illness are connected, and I saw my brother go through it and I lost him because of his illness. And so I’ll joke about myself and my own journey. But I won’t joke about someone else’s because I know how hard of a struggle it is for people every day of their lives. I mean, mental health isn’t something you just turn on and off with a switch. It’s something that is really, really real and difficult for people. Yeah. If there is a blowback by somebody saying, Hey, Dave, you know, you should be more serious about it. Well, sometimes laughter gets you through our toughest moments. And this past year, I lost my brother. I lost my other brother, Bob Saget. I lost some other really close friends of mine a couple of months after Bob. Sometimes I will make jokes about it. I will just say, well, apparently I’m in the death Bermuda triangle right now. And, you know, that’s a joke about me and that’s a joke about my struggles and my sobriety and my journey. But I certainly don’t want to ever make fun of somebody else’s journey because we’re all on different paths.
Gabe Howard: Dave, I’m so sorry about all of your loss. And I imagine that that that amount of grief would just have to be overwhelming. Was there any struggle to your sobriety during those moments or were you able to navigate?
Dave Coulier: I wanted to feel the raw emotion and I wanted to deal with it head-on. And I didn’t want to mask any of my feelings or thoughts. I just really wanted to feel human. And I realized that alcohol doesn’t let me do that. It takes away all of those things who are me. And I don’t want to give me away. There’s only so much of me left, and so I don’t want to give it away. I had to really accept myself and my flaws and the things I’m not good at. And I keep going back to this word. But I didn’t want to beat myself up in the process and say, You’ve been so bad, neglecting either your job or friends or relationships. I didn’t want to do that. I just thought this is a chance to move forward in a really positive way. That was really all I wanted to do. I wanted to keep it simple and just be positive.
Gabe Howard: Do you feel positive today? I just ask because it’s been well over two years and you’re talking about your struggles publicly and you’re helping a lot of people and you’re helping yourself. And it sounds like things are really, really going well for you. But do you ever fall back? Do you ever worry? Just give us the scoop. What’s your day-to-day life like now?
Dave Coulier: Gabe, are there times when I have a spaghetti dinner with a steak and I think, wow, a really great cabernet would taste great with this? Absolutely. Do I think about it? Absolutely. Do I think, wow, it’s a nice, hot day. Wouldn’t a nice chilled chardonnay on a boat be a wonderful thing? Absolutely. Yes, I get that part of it. But I had to kind of weigh what the positives and negatives were. Alcohol is that beautiful girl that’s never going to age. She’s always going to be beautiful. And so I just have to look at myself and find my inner beauty. I hope that makes sense. But those evils, if you want to call them that, those addictions, those temptations, those are never, ever going away. But I create those or I put those to rest. And so those are my decisions. I have to make that choice. Every day of today is a great day and I’m not going to drink. I’m not going to abuse myself. I’m not going to give myself away today to the power of alcohol because it’s a really powerful thing. And we lose a lot of people every year from it. A lot of times it’s directly connected with mental illness. That’s a really, really big equation when you start thinking of those terms. I try to understand it. I try to understand the effects of alcohol and I try to give myself a break every day of, Hey, you’re just some guy. Yeah, you’re funny and people know you. But at the end of the day, I’m just some schmo that used to like drinking a lot, and that is ingrained in me. I have to just appreciate myself and appreciate the fact that I’ve learned an awful lot about what choices I’ve made. Some of them have been really bad, and alcohol was a suspect in just about every one of those scenarios.
Gabe Howard: From the time that you got sober in January of 2020 to the time that you announced on Instagram or spoke publicly about it, two years went by. It doesn’t look like you talked about this publicly for two years. What changed? What made you stand up and say, okay, today is the day, now is the time, I want to be more open about this versus just keeping quiet?
Dave Coulier: You know, Gabe, it was just peeling away layers and there were a lot of layers. I didn’t even know when I began this journey how many there were, how much covering up I had done. Alcohol for me, was an everyday thing. It was, Oh, man, I’m hung over. I better have a drink. That will make me feel better. Well, you think of that, and it’s like, how ridiculous is that? But anything was an excuse to have beers. And I’m a hockey player. And after hockey, let’s go have a beer. We lost. Well, we better have a beer. We won. Hey, let’s celebrate and have a beer. Let’s go on the golf course and drink all day. You know, this is part of my DNA. As I said earlier, everybody’s journey is different. And if I can share a slice of my journey with people and they see a little bit of themselves, then this has all been really, really good.
Gabe Howard: Dave, thank you so much for your candor. Let’s go ahead and transition to you being a comedian. You are most well known for playing Joey Gladstone on Full House, but of course, you do other things. You’ve got a new project coming out for Pure Flix streaming, and the television show or streaming show is called Live+Local. Can you tell our listeners what the show is about?
Dave Coulier: Well, it’s about a radio host who’s kind of a curmudgeon, which is a real departure for me as an actor. And he is at a small faith-based radio station, and he’s been number one in this small little market forever. So he doesn’t want to change anything. At the beginning of the series, they try to change him. When I say they, they bring in a young producer and they bring in a station manager, and they try to totally uproot my character, get him into social media, and to take selfies and to do a blog. And he just doesn’t want any of it. His thought is, look, I’m a dinosaur. I’m not going to change. And we’re Coca-Cola. Don’t change the ingredients to something people love. Right? The show kind of starts very slowly, so please give us a chance. But the first episode lays out a lot of what we call pipe. Kind of sets the tone for the rest of the episodes. You know, when I read the script and I talked with Dan Merchant about it, who’s the show creator and directed us, we just clicked and I said, Can I do this? And he said, Yeah. And I said, Can I do this? He said, Yeah. How about this? Yeah. He goes, Dave, I’m hiring you for you. So it’s yes, whatever you want to do. And so when I heard that I had real freedom, which is what every actor wants, it was a wonderful cast. It was a really great experience. And I can’t wait to see what fans think.
Gabe Howard: I think fans are going to love it. Dave, thank you so much for being here. Remember, listeners, you need to check out Live+Local on Pure Flix streaming. Also, if you haven’t already, you should head over to Dave’s website and it’s DaveCoulier.com. Dave is like flapping his arms and hands the whole time and you like click a bunch of buttons and it’s got a little beaver character.
Dave Coulier: You know, and it’s funny because we’re about to change it.
Gabe Howard: Oh, no. No.
Dave Coulier: Yeah. We’re gonna. This website has been there a long time and it was very, very entertaining and very cutting edge for people for a long time. And it’s part of this sober mental health journey that I’m on is I really want to show me, which is I love being a boater. I love building things. I’m building a home. I went to general contractor school. I have a tractor. I love working outdoors, I love splitting logs and working on the land. So I really want people to see more of that. And I think for a long time I wasn’t really ready to share with the public, certainly who I really am and what I do on a daily basis. And it’s time to kind of make that change instead of, hey, you know, Dave from comedy, it’s like, Hey, do you really want to know Dave? Take a peek inside here.
Gabe Howard: I think that is awesome. I still have to give props to the current website, which by the time this airs might be the old website or could possibly be the new website. It’s difficult to keep track of, but no matter what’s there, I’m sure it will be awesome. And that of course, is at DaveCoulier.com. Dave, thank you so much for being here.
Dave Coulier: Thank you, Gabe it was a pleasure to talk to you.
Gabe Howard: Oh, you are very, very welcome. And to all of our listeners, thank you for being here as well. My name is Gabe Howard and I am the author of “Mental Illness Is an Asshole and Other Observations.” I’m also an award-winning public speaker who could be available for your next event. The book is on Amazon because, well, everything is on Amazon or you can get a signed copy with free show swag or learn more about me by heading over to gabehoward.com. Wherever you downloaded this episode, please follow or subscribe. It is absolutely free. And can you do me a favor? Share this episode. Share this podcast with everybody you know, whether it’s on social media, email, text message, or good old-fashioned word of mouth. Sharing the show is how we grow. I will see everybody next Thursday on Inside Mental Health.
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